Chutzpah is George Steinbrenner lecturing anyone on the subject of employee relations. It's any Democratic National Committee expressing shock at any budget deficit. Chutzpah, the exclusive practice of no region or gender, has frequently been sighted in the company of politicians. In fact, political chutzpah may be the sole surviving public activity without its own televised awards ceremony. To correct that possible oversight, here are three nominees for the All-Gall Award:
1) National Organization for Women leader Eleanor Smeal. Smeal pinned at least part of the blame for the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment on the facts that "Democratic support was not strong enough" and that the mostly male state legislatures have a "stag club atosphere." To loud cheers, she announced a campaign to replace benighted males with enlightened females in selected state legislatures. What went unemphasized was that in the 1982 Illinois state legislature, the Dien Bien Phu of the ratification war, while 68 percent of the women members voted for the pro-ERA position, 84 percent of the Democratic legislators stood up for NOW's equal rights.
2) Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson qualified for the chutzpah varsity during his city's most recent mayoral campaign between Andrew Young, a black, and state legislator Sidney Marcus, a white. Jackson, a backer of Mr. Young, called black voters who supported Marcus "shuffling and grinning Negroes." Jackson surely had not forgotten how, just eight years earlier, whites who supported him in his own campaign to become Atlanta's first black mayor were called "nigger lover" and worse.
3) Ronald Reagan, president. For undiluted and sustained chutzpah, the president's attempted retroactive endorsement of the latest voting rights law and his most recent proposed constitutional amendment. On June 18, when the bill had passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 8, the president embraced it. Later, at the bill- signing at the White House, he suggested he had been more than willing to sign the law's extension over a year ago. Another case of bad memory or chronic chutzpah: the Reagan administration, despite repeated requests from all sides, refused to testify on the act on Capitol Hill or anyplace else. The bill passed the House, without administration involvement, by a vote of 389 to 24 on Oct. 5, 1981. The first official administration support of any voting rights bill was revealed on May 3, 1982, when Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), the principal architect of the final compromise bill, announced that the White House was on board.
But the best has to be the balanced budget constitutional amendment the president endorsed this week, only six months after submitting a budget with the largest deficit ever and three weeks after signing a budget for next year with a deficit of $103.9 billion. Forget that such an amendment would bring about what Reagan most opposes--the raising of taxes. Just admire the chutzpah.